Damascene Tabakh Roho / Minty Vegetable lamb Stew (Video)
One of my greatest pleasures doing my food blog is having the opportunity to offer a taste of Damascus and introduce many to simple yet delicious Damascene recipes and the techniques behind their making, in addition to the star ingredient or should I say:” the secret ingredient that makes a dish stand out”.
I would like to talk a bit about the love story Damascenes have with Mint.
In Syria, every Syrian house has a stock of mint, if not dried then fresh. It is a traditional homeotherapeutic medicine strongly rooted in the culture, used to ease nerves and spasms and to rejuvenate energy. But, just as much as it is rooted as a traditional homeotherapy it is rooted in the Damascene cuisine. We find it used in drinks like Airan, a traditional Levant yoghurt drink, lemonade and hot mint tea, and many salads like the traditional Syrian salad garden, yoghurt cucumber salad and fattoush salad. It is also a key ingredient, usually paired with garlic, in many hot dishes like stuffed zucchini, stuffed cabbage and lib kousa to list a few.
When asked by friends what Tabakh roho is, I say “it is the elevated ratatouille of Damascus”. This dish, another one of my favourites, is a Damascene summer dish that combines aubergine, zucchini and tomatoes that are in abundance during the summer season. The ingredients are simple and the meal is light, but what makes this recipe stand out is the dried mint and crushed garlic added at the end, which elevate it to a different level. The aroma mint makes when it marries the stew hits all the right cords in me, as it creates that bridge I miss to my grandmother, tete Amneh, and the old lemon tree in her ancient mamlouki house right in the heart of the Old City of Damascus.
You can eat this dish with steamed rice or bulgur . I love to eat bowls of it as is with chili oil. What else would I want when it is only 260 calories per serving.
300 grams lamb, cut 1/2" thick
2 medium onions chopped
1 kilogram aubergine / eggplant
300 grams zucchini
1 kilogram tomato, peeled, deseeded and crushed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 garlic cloves crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons dried mint
Salt, to taste
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
* Ask the butcher to cube the lamb for you into 1 cm or 1/2" cubes. In a saucepan, heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil and cook the meat until it is no longer pink. Add the chopped onions and fry for another five minutes.
* Meanwhile peel the aubergine, every other stipe, as seen in the video and cube into 4 cm or 2" cubes and set aside.
* Cube the zucchini into 2 cm or 1" cubes and set aside.
* Once the onions are golden add the tomato paste and the fresh crushed tomatoes. You can use 900 grams of tinned crushed tomatoes, if easier.
* Mix together then add all the vegetables and enough water to cover the vegetables by 3 cm or 1 1/2". Season with salt and pepper and let it cook on medium to high heat for 20 to 30 minutes until all the vegetables and meat are cooked. Add a little more water if needed as the dish should have the consistency of a stew.
* Adjust the salt then add the crushed garlic and mint. Let it simmer for 2 minutes then serve as is or with steamed rice.
* This dish is just as great without the meat.
* If you have no access to dried mint you would need a cup of fresh mint leaves.
Per Serving : 260 Calories; 15g Fat (50.2% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 48mg Cholesterol; 93mg Sodium